Wang Keping

Wang Keping
b. 1949, Hebei
One of the founder-participants of the Stars group, Wang Keping’s wooden sculptures are outstanding for their emotional intensity and biting wit. A Red Guard member of an acting troupe during the Cultural Revolution, Wang tried his hand at writing plays, admiring the Theatre of the Absurd in particular. However, it was in woodcarving that he really found his medium. A self-taught sculptor, he has a feeling for deducing what kind of image a given piece of wood would best yield. Silence (Chenmo, 1979) uses a knot of wood where a branch has been lopped off to portray a corked-up mouth, symbolic of the lack of freedom of speech. Backbone of Society (Shehui zhongjian) makes use of a chunk of wood with a hole in the top to portray brainless, incompetent bureaucrats. His masterpiece is no doubt Idol (Ouxiang, 1979), a winking Buddha-like head wearing a Communist star insignia on his hat, with features reminiscent of Mao.
Wang’s sense of social responsibility and formal playfulness is summed up in his statement: ‘Käthe Kollwitz is our banner, and Picasso is our pioneer. But for us Kollwitz is more important.’ Indeed, he was one of the main organizers of the Stars demonstration for exhibition space on 1 October 1979, the Thirtieth Anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, and expressed his need to sculpt as a way to vent pent-up feelings. In 1984 he moved to France, where he now lives and sculpts.
See also: China Art Gallery; political icons (and art)
Andrews, Julia F. (1994). Painters and Politics in the People’s Republic of China 1949–1979. Berkeley: University of California Press, 377–405.
Galikowski, Maria (1998). Art and Politics in China, 1949–1984. Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 193–207.
Hui Ching-shuen, Janny (ed.) (1989). The Stars: Ten Years (exhibition catalogue). Hong Kong: Hanart T Z Gallery 2.
Sullivan, Michael (1996). Art and Artists of 20th Century China. Berkeley: University of California Press, 267–71.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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